Last week I wrote about how I developed a sense of extreme caution around western medicine. This week I'd like to talk about the years I spent as a potter in New Mexico, and how those years actually proved useful to me as an acupuncturist.
The first time I drove west, it was to visit Bob, whose wife had just died at an early age. They had moved to New Mexico maybe 6 months prior, and so they hadn't made many friends. She and I had been friends back in New York, and so my visit heralded the opportunity for both Bob and me to share our loss
and grieve together. I wound up staying for several weeks, instead of the 5 days I had originally planned on. By the time I went back to New York, it was clear that Bob and I shared more than our grief. We called each other almost daily, and wrote long letters several times a week. Six months later I packed up my things and moved to New Mexico.
There was a building on the property which I converted into my pottery studio, and with the help of some locals who poured a cement slab for me, welded some metal framing and connected the gas lines and burners, I built a kiln in our side yard. To this day I cannot believe that I did that, because the plans I had for a kiln were for one which was much larger than the one I built. Somehow I figured out how to shrink those plans and make it work. Don't ask me how I did that - I couldn't tell you. Maybe it was the pot I smoked at the time?
Anyway, my life in New Mexico was a life surrounded by artists and scientists. Bob had been the editor of Physics Today, and so was connected to many scientists at Los Alamos. I formed friendships with potters, stained glass artists, jewelers and musicians - all living in the mountains east of Albuquerque. Every insomniac on the mountain would show up at our house in the middle of the night (Bob was a night owl) and play chess, or the game of Go with Bob. I learned to ski and bake bread. I had my first chiropractic adjustment and my first massage, and loved both.
It was my massage therapist who suggested I go to her acupuncturist. My cycle was wacky and she said he could help. Acupuncture was definitely not in the news or in the movies in those days, and so I had no idea what to expect. Knitting needles? (But she said it didn't hurt, so that couldn't be it....) I was so pleasantly surprised by the whole experience that I went back for a second treatment. By the end of that treatment, I sat up and asked "How can I learn this?" "You can't". Huh? How could that be? "From what I know about what's out there, vs. what my teacher taught me, I can't recommend that you study with anyone else, and right now he's not teaching. But he probably will again. It's in his blood." That was in February of 1986.
Long story short - he had moved to San Diego by the time I heard about him. By that summer, I received a catalogue and an application for a school he was starting in San Diego. Bob was in favor of me studying, and supported me learning a profession. (Clay dust and hauling thousands of pounds of clay around were beginning to wear on me.) And so in September of 1986 I drove my Honda out to San Diego to begin studying eastern medicine with Sensei Nakazono. With years of developing "eyes in my fingertips", I found the palpation part of medicine to be easy. I could feel the blockages of energy in the body as well as in the pulses. My heart began living a dual life -- part of me will always "live" in New Mexico. And the other part is happy to be working at something which helps so many people not only regain their sense of health and wellbeing, but also helps to keep them living at optimum levels. The opportunities for me to practice this medicine just fell into place in San Diego, and so I stayed. I can't complain.....there are far worse places to live!
If you like this post, please go ahead and share it on social media. Give me a thumbs up -- or a thumbs down - whatever. Just give me some kind of reaction, comment....
Oh - and I thought I had scheduled this to be posted on Friday. Apparently I need to learn more about how to schedule my posts!
It all began with my dad....
I don't often share the story of my life with people other than close friends. But for whatever reason, I decided to "pull back the curtain", as it were, and tell you all how I first got interested in medicine. Actually, it's really more about how I got (mostly) turned off by western medicine. Oh, don't get me wrong - I still go to the doctor occasionally. But for the most part, I rely on eastern medicine for my health and well being.
When I was a kid, my father was diagnosed with something called Kaposi's Sarcoma. Nowadays it's considered to be an AIDS Related Complex, but back in those days, there was no AIDS. This was back in the 50s, and AIDS didn't exist in the US. Most doctors had no idea what Kaposi's was, had never seen a case of it, didn't know how you got it, didn't know how to diagnose it, let alone treat it.
Somewhere along the line, a doctor examined my dad's leg (the first signs of it were on his lower leg) and declared "That's Kaposi's! The only thing to do is amputate." My dad ran like hell - or at least got out of there as quickly as possible, given the fact that his leg had sores all over it and was hurting.
That began a journey which covered years and years, where he went from one doctor to the next, and was treated the best way they knew how at that time -- as a medical experiment. They used everything from arsenic to mustard gas on him, and almost killed him with the mustard gas. (It was designed to kill people, after all.) One day my sister popped in unannounced to the hospital where he was undergoing his "treatment" with mustard gas, and was told that he was in the ICU. "He's going to die", the doctor told her, and then walked off. (She collapsed into a chair.)
When my mom finally brought him home from the hospital after he survived that particular round of chemical warfare, (she literally called him back from the dead -- but that's a story for a different post), he was ready for amputation. By then the Kaposi's had spread to his hand, and so he wound up having a leg and 3 fingers amputated.
The road to healing from that was long and arduous, but my dad was diligent in his therapies and exercises and wound up living for something like 27 years after they had given him up for dead.
I was 16 when he had his amputation. I don't recall how old I was when he was diagnosed - I just know I was a little girl. So the majority of my childhood was spent with a dad who was being used for medical experimentation, by doctors who meant well, but didn't really have a clue what they were doing. Is it any wonder that I developed a certain skepticism about western medicine? I had never heard of eastern medicine back then, but I learned to approach doctors and drugs with a great deal of caution, to say the least.
So that was my experience with medicine when I was a child. I saw the limitations of what was known, and the willingness to try anything, no matter how deadly, in an attempt to produce a miracle. I have no idea what they might have told my parents about what they were doing, nor do I know if my parents truly understood the risks. I was a child, after all. I just know that as a result of this experience, I did not develop that utter faith in what doctors said.
Next week I will continue this story, fast forwarding to "The New Mexico Years" Hint: that's where I lived when I was a potter, and where I first encountered eastern medicine.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you've had a story - good or bad - about western medicine. Or eastern medicine. Share this on social media if you'd like.
What is it that happened to you in your childhood that led you to have the views you now hold about - anything? Medicine? Politics? Religion? Was someone you know saved by doctors? Were you stirred deeply by a political speech, or a religious leaders talk? I'm truly interested!
I asked a patient of mine this question today, and it took him over 3 minutes to figure out what it meant to rejuvenate. Now, don't get me wrong, here. This man is smart. He understood the question. He just couldn't figure out what he actually did to rejuvenate.
How many times have we been so busy "doing".....work, errands, catching up on emails, etc. ..... that we've forgotten what it means to just "be". To look around with wonder at the world around us. I heard a quote recently that said "We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders."
This is not a small matter. For in order to actually have a sense of wonder, we need to actually be present. In this moment. Now. Right here, where our life is actually happening. And when we find ourselves present - here now - a funny thing happens. We discover that we have dropped the stress. It's gone. And the reason it's gone is because we are not worried about the future, or thinking about the past. We are present in this moment, where there is nothing missing. We're simply engaged in life as it is.
Are you ready to drop the stress? Even for a few moments? Take a deep breath....let it go....and show up here and now, with whatever is happening in your life. It's a terrific anti-aging technique! Try it and let me know what you think.
Like it sweet, but don't want the weight gain? Think you're doing it right by drinking diet sodas and chewing sugar free gum? Think again.
Ever since the aspertame (Equal, NutraSweet), was first introduced 35 years ago, it was touted as a solution for those who wanted to have their cake and eat it too. We were told we could have sweets and not gain weight. Who could resist? Recent studies of aspertame have concluded, however, that it has a carcinogenic effect. Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that it turns into formaldehyde in the body?
So then what about Splenda? It's made from sugar, but it doesn't have any calories. Wouldn't that be better? Well, yes, if it wasn't a chlorinated version of sugar. Chlorine? Really? When't the last time you wanted to ingest it? I didn't think so.
So then there's Xylitol. It's the latest and the greatest - especially if you like to chew gum. But wait! Anything that ends in "itol" is a sugar alcohol, and sugar alcohols aren't well absorbed by the body. In fact, many laxatives have the same chemical makeup as xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, and all the other "itols". From a Chinese medical perspective, these substances cause a downward movement of qi, or energy, and for this reason should be avoided by pregnant women.
I could go on, but you get the idea. So what should you do if you want something sweet?
My #1 recommendation is honey. But it must be raw, organic honey, because anything else is mostly corn syrup with honey in it. Yes, I know that it says "organic" and maybe even "pure honey", or "100% pure honey", but those labels are misleading. What they point to is the fact that the honey that's in there may be organic or pure (whatever that means), but they don't mean that everything in that jar is honey. It's a sneaky little labeling trick that the FDA has been allowing for years, under the heading of "proprietary information". In other words, not everything that's in our food is labeled, because to do so would mean that companies would have to give out their "secret sauce", so to speak.
There's also coconut sugar and brown rice syrup as alternatives, as well as agave syrup. And for those who like the taste of stevia, that's good too.
To live a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean that you have to become a monk. You can have something sweet. Just consider using natural sweeteners rather than something made in a laboratory. I like to tell my patients to read the labels on their food. If they can't pronounce or know what an ingredient is, how do they know it's food?
I've been practicing acupuncture and Chinese medicine for over 25 years, and this ancient wisdom never gets old. I love helping people feel better without the need for drugs or surgery.